|Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: 2013 seems to be a year for excellent fantasy debuts as here's another one. In this first of an epic series, we chew our nails and roll with the punches in a place called Steelhaven; a city on the verge of demise from an author on the verge of acclaim.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: April 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Nobul is a blacksmith and ex-mercenary who thinks he has next to nothing until even that is taken away from him. Rag is a young waif, surviving on the streets from stealth and a talent for stealing. Waylian spends his days poring over books and dodging verbal abuse as a witch's apprentice. Meanwhile Merrick, drinker, gambler and for hire by anyone who can afford him (i.e. by anyone) receives a commission he can't refuse no matter how much he'd like to. River the assassin and Kaira one of the temple guard Shieldmaidens just continue what they always do, day in, day out. For in Steelhaven daily life is a routine round of existence until one day something happens… and suddenly it's not.
It's rather exciting when a contender for debut fantasy of the year appears when the year isn't even half over, as occurred with Luke Scull's The Grim Company. It's even more exciting when a second isn't far behind, namely Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood. The question is how would our excitement levels react if a third turned up? Well, we're about to find out; I present to you another contender, this time from Yorkshireman Richard Ford. Ours is not to analyse why 2013 is becoming so special, but to just sit back and enjoy it.
The first thing Herald of the Storm provides for our enjoyment is an interesting answer to the introducing-a-cast-and-ensuring-they're-memorable conundrum. Until we're properly acquainted Richard allows each main character alternating chapters so that we can meet them and see through their eyes unencumbered, This works beautifully as we smirk at Merrick's wry internal monologue and worry about Rag as she pits her wits against starvation. Indeed this is fantasy imbued with humanity as is proven we accompany Nobul. We aren't just entertained by these people; their world's experiences bleed into ours providing empathetic depth. (That's a posh way of saying that a book made me cry again!)
In some cases we can tell where their paths are going to cross and intertwine just before our view of them changes from individuals to interdependent city dwellers. However sometimes the links between their destinies come as twists with the power to temporarily snatch our breath.
Another source of enjoyment is the way that Richard weaves a tapestry of stories within stories. Tales of love, ethical questions, a 'who-dunnit' murder mystery (much blood, but not to Abercrombie levels), crowns, usurpers, espionage and betrayal, even an organised crime network and it's opposing resistance movement occupy us, with the odd added rumour and undercurrent until there it is, simmering beneath all the plotlines: the approaching storm that won't leave anyone quite the same as it found them and the ground is amply prepared for Book 2.
The strapline of Herald may be Welcome to Steelhaven… watch your back but after a few hours visiting its denizens, rather than obey, I find myself already looking eagerly forward. I know that's corny but it's also very, very true.
You can read more book reviews or buy Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford at Amazon.com.
Herald of the Storm by Richard Ford is in the Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2013.
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